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I agree it would be better to have a bottom up process. The existing nine English regions are lines on a map drawn up by the central government. Apart from Greater London, the regions are extremely shadowy. Most people probably do not realise they exist.

English local patriotism focuses on the counties (and probably more the historic counties than the administrative areas we have had since 1974). The only one of the 'new' counties which seems to have worked is Cumbria - isolated off in the north west corner of England.

Many counties would probably prefer to go it alone, although a few areas (like the three counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire) have traditional links.

Most English counties have the same population as one of the smaller US states. Idiosyncratic smaller counties like the Isle of Wight and Rutland might upset tidy minded bureaucrats, who want units they consider the right size, but the Swiss cantons seem to manage.

Devolution to the counties (or voluntary groupings of counties) might be the most popular approach, which is no doubt why no political party has suggested it.

by Gary J on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 11:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are 81 English counties... you are not seriously suggesting they would all want to be separate from their neighbours?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 12:12:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The number of counties has been confused by areas being given unitary status and then being designated as counties. These are, on the whole, not real counties. Some are the equivalent of the old county boroughs - which were part of a geographic county but not an administrative one. Others were detached from a historic county in 1974 and included in a new county, since abolished.

There were 39 historic counties.


Almost all of Middlesex and part of several other counties now forms Greater London. I do not see that region being unscrambled.

Cumberland, Westmorland and the northern part of Lancashire were combined into Cumbria. That arrangement seems likely to continue.

The Isle of Wight probably should be regarded as a distinct county. Grouping it with Hampshire makes little sense.

No doubt some counties would form groups, but not all. Cornwall for example has asked to become a region on its own. At a guess a bottom up arrangement might produce about 15 to 25 units, which does not seem too excessive for a country with the population of England.

To know for sure we would have to allow the councils to choose.

by Gary J on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 02:20:40 PM EST
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The spread of BBC Local Radio stations gives an idea of what the main cultural/population/historical groupings are these days.


There's 40 there, but some obvious potential mergers for the purposes of this discussion.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 03:34:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me try and construct a pattern of regions, using the existing county and unitary authorities. This is my guess about which counties and equivalent unitary areas would link together, but I am no expert about popular attitudes.

Some areas are relatively simple, but there is a large part of England where there are no obvious natural subdivisions and for historical ones you have to go back to the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the Heptarchy, before the tenth century.

The problems can be seen in the attempts by Wessex regionalists to define a Wessex region they can all agree on. Between the shifting boundaries of the historic Kingdom of Wessex, the Wessex of Thomas Hardy and the attempts of Cornwall and some in Devon to assert a non Wessex celtic heritage; the south west and south central portions of the map are problematic.


Region (including)

  1. Berks, Bucks and Oxon or possibly North East Wessex (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire).

  2. Cornwall (Cornwall, Isles of Scilly). It might possibly link with Devon, but Cornwall is the most distinctive English county, with its own celtic heritage.

  3. East Anglia  (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough, Suffolk). A Kingdom of the Heptarchy.

  4. Essex  (Essex, Southend on Sea, Thurrock). One of the Kingdoms of the Heptarchy and a large modern shire county.

  5. Greater London (Greater London). The one region which is already a reality.

  6. Hampshire (Bournemouth (could go with its post 1974 county of Dorset or its pre 1974 county), Hampshire, Portsmouth,  Southampton). A part of the historic Kingdom of Wessex, Winchester was Alfred the Great's capital. However it is one of the larger shire counties, which I would see as distinct from the south west. The Isle of Wight might be included but I suspect the Islanders would strongly prefer their own small region.

  7. Isle of Wight (Isle of Wight).

  8. Lincolnshire (Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire). It could possibly link with the Midlands or East Anglia, but it is a historic county which does not quite fit with anywhere else.

  9. North East England (Darlington, Durham, Hartlepool, Northumberland, Stockton on Tees, Tyne and Wear). This is more or less the existing region. It rejected an elected regional assembly at a referendum, but a body with worthwhile powers might be more acceptable.

  10. North Mercia (Derby, Derbyshire, Leicester, Leicestershire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent).

  11. North West England (Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Halton, Lancashire, Merseyside). This is the existing region. Possibly Cumbria might see itself as distinct enough to want to be a small region.

  12. South East England (Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, Kent, Medway, Surrey, West Sussex). This is a fairly cohesive geographical area with some historical ties. It combines two of the smaller Heptarchy kingdoms (Kent and Sussex) with the territory between them and the Thames (Surrey).

  13. South Mercia (Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Luton, Northamptonshire).

  14. Wessex (Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, Devon (unless it links with Cornwall), Dorset, Gloucestershire (possibly), North Somerset, Plymouth, Poole, Somerset, Swindon, South Gloucestershire, Torbay, Wiltshire). Not absolutely the same as the historic or literary Wessex, but you have to draw the boundaries somewhere.

  15. West Mercia (Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin,Warwickshire, Worcestershire). Counties around and to the west of West Midlands.

  16. West Midlands (the metropolitan county of West Midlands, around Birmingham, not the larger current region). This is a large urban area. It could be treated separately from the rest of the Midlands.

  17. Yorkshire (East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull, Middlesbrough*, Redcar and Cleveland*, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, York)

*Possibly North East but the area was part of historic Yorkshire.
by Gary J on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 09:39:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, this is the kind of answer I had inmind for my original question.

There is absolutely no problem for a large island such as the Isle of Wight to be its own region.

Regarding Wessex, since the process is bottom-up, as long as the existing Cornwall  county council refuses to join the rest of the Wessex councils in applying for region status, it would stay separated. Similarly for Cumbria.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 03:51:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the rest of Wessex isn't that keen on Cornwall. At least 'round these parts.
by northsylvania on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 10:39:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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